Well, hello Summer!
Besides the mosquitoes and sometimes unbearable humidity of the South, summer brings with it plenty of good things too. Dips in the swimming pool. Chasing fireflies in the field. Gardens bursting with fresh vegetables.
As a child, when the heat descended, I wasn’t bothered by it. Instead, I was excited. That increase in temperature meant one very important thing – Ice Cream Season was upon us!
At least once a week, my sister and I would pile into the back of my dad’s VW Bug for a trip to our local ice cream stand. A small trailer on the side of Highway 68, their only offerings were soft serve vanilla, chocolate, and swirl. Never very good at making decisions, I always left with a swirl.
Over time I’ve developed a more refined palate, now ordering flavors like Salty Caramel, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, and Lemon Ginger Custard at some of Nashville best ice cream shops, Hot and Cold , Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Pied Piper Creamery.
And then there are the delectable gelatos at Bravo Gelato, Whole Foods, and Porta Via – flavors like Donatella, Coconut and Peanut Butter Honey, to name a few. Actually, I’ve really never met a gelato I didn’t like.
Curious as to exactly what makes gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, differ from normal ice cream, I reached out to Bianca Engle, an assistant manager at Porta Via on Whitebridge Road. Bianca trained with an Italian chef and was once responsible for developing new gelato flavors at Porta Via before their current pastry chef, Laurent Orleans, came on board.
Bianca explained that during the process of making this traditional Italian frozen treat, a minimal amount of air is added while churning, resulting in a dense, creamy texture. Because of this process, gelato also boasts an intensity of flavor that isn’t found in regular ice cream. Even better, gelato has a lower fat content than ice cream. (Thus, I tell myself it’s better for me as I devour a pint.)
Between gelato and ice cream, which do I favor? Hmmmm….
I already told you that I’m not good at making decisions, and really, why would I choose just one? There is plenty of room in my life for both!
And you don’t have to choose either. Today I have a recipe for an amazing Toasted Coconut Ice Cream that you can make at home if you’re so inclined, but I also have some intel on a couple of contests where you could score some free Porta Via Gelato!
First, the recipe:
Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
Serves 8. Adapted from All Recipes
1 cup milk
1 (15 ounce) can cream of coconut*
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
*I used Coco Lopez cream of coconut, found in the bar/mixers aisle of the grocery store. Important to note: Cream of coconut is NOT the same as coconut milk or coconut cream. Make sure you use cream of coconut!
Place the flaked coconut in a food processor and finely chop for 1-2 minutes. Remove from processor and add to non-stick skillet. Over medium heat, toast the coconut for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Combine the milk and cream of coconut in the container of a food processor or blender, and mix thoroughly. Stir in cream and flaked coconut.
Pour into the container of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.
A special thanks to my friend Erin over at Erin's Food Files (www.erinsfoodfiles.com) for inspiring me to make my very first homemade ice cream, specifically this one.
Now, the contests:
Porta Via’s ‘A Lotta Gelato’ Contest
All you need to do to be entered for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Porta Via is come up with a new gelato flavor for their stores. You don’t have to actually make it – just think it up in your head! If your gelato idea wows the judges, you’ll get that gift card plus the honor of having your winning flavor featured in the restaurants.
The Rules: Entrants must be at least 16 years of age. Only one entry per person is permitted; multiple entries by the same person will be disqualified. Entries are due by June 30 at 10 p.m. CST, and must be submitted via email to email@example.com or by filling out an entry form at either Porta Via location, 21 White Bridge Road in Nashville or 3301 Aspen Grove Drive in Cool Springs.
Put on your thinking caps and come up with a winning flavor!
Eat. Drink. Smile.’s ‘Hello Summer’ Contest
Congratulations to the Winners!
In conjunction with Porta Via’s ‘A Lotta Gelato’ Contest, Porta Via is allowing me to host one of my own so that even more of you have a chance to cool down with their gelato this summer. I’ve got three (3) $10 gift cards to Porta Via up for grabs.
To Enter: All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me your favorite flavor of ice cream or gelato. That simple!
Contest ends on Sunday, June 24th at Noon CDT. Once the winners are chosen, I’ll contact them via email and post it here on the blog. If any winner doesn’t respond within 48 hours, I’ll be forced to choose another, so be sure to check your email!
*This post also appeared in The Tennessean